WHAT ARE STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES?
A standard operating procedure, or SOP, is a set of clearly defined step-by-step instructions that can be used to carry out the routine practice of a particular task. SOPs are used to establish a best practice and reduce the margin of error, so that the task can be completed in a uniform, efficient manner.
COMMONLY ASKED STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE QUESTIONS
You Might Be Wondering...
When is my organization large enough to require SOPs?
As soon as your organization has roles or responsibilities that are simultaneously being done by different people, standard operating procedures are a good idea to begin implementing. This will ensure consistency of process and result, and help elevate everyone's performance around your best practices.
How long does it take to make a SOP?
Standard operating procedures can be created in roughly the same amount of time it takes to perform the actual task, particularly if you are using a medium like video. Give yourself a 10-20% time buffer for the normal time that it takes to do the task, just to be safe. For written materials, it could take a bit longer.
What is the easiest way to build my SOPs (or the playbook for my company)?
The easiest way to assemble your company manual is to use templates as a starting point (see below), crowdsource the effort with all members of your team, and simplify the process with an online training manual or business process management tool, like Trainual.com.
HOW TO MAKE A STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE
The SOP For Making SOPs... 🤯
Perfect The Process
Before you create a SOP, the process should be performed consistently each time as a best practice in your organization. If you want SOPs, but your process isn't yet dialed in, drafting the SOP could be a fruitless effort that leads to rounds and rounds of unnecessary revision.
Outline The Steps
When writing or recording your process, keep it concise. Try to keep individual steps no longer than 250 words, and videos no longer than 5 minutes in length. Short, easy to reference materials are more digestible and most useful.
Test What You Teach
Hand your SOP to another team member and ask them to perform the task using the instructions, ideally not in a mission critical scenario. Ask that they pay special attention to whether the Standard Operating Procedures are informative enough to get the job done, or whether they're too complex.
Fill In The Gaps
Based on the feedback, improve your materials or ask your team member to collaborate in a second draft. Process expert Chris Ronzio uses the phrase, "Do It. Document It. Delegate It.®" which speaks to the recurring nature of writing and evaluating your Standard Operating Procedures.
Use This Format:
When organizing your SOPs, divide your content into high level subjects, which may correspond to the department or role that you are writing for. These subjects could be folders in a digital file structure, collections in a Standard Operating Procedure Software, or separate binders in a paper SOP format.
A topic is the "how to" that you will be writing about. Think of each new document that you open up to write about a new process as a separate Topic.
Purpose & Targets
Every Topic should open with two things: First, the purpose of why someone would be reading this SOP. Give your reader some context, for instance, "we've developed this process for organizing inbound mail to help quickly and efficiently get checks deposited and customer orders placed." The simple context at the beginning of your topic will help the reader develop an appreciation for each process or policy.
Next, define some "Targets" for your reader, or things that they will be able to do after learning this topic.
Steps are the individual sequence of communication that follows a title and opening paragraph in your topic. You might choose to use a combination of text, images and video to most easily communicate the process to your learner.
When writing an SOP, as yourself:
SOP Writing Guidelines
Standard operating procedures may have gotten a bad reputation from ages of verbose writers creating long, complex materials. Remember, keep your process concise. If more detail is needed, your learners will ask you to fill in the gaps. Use video whenever possible, and make your SOPs easy to consume, and easy to reference later.